UNHCR apologises to Uganda over comments on Rwandan refugees
Kampala – The UN refugee agency apologized Tuesday to the Uganda government after it claimed it was involved in the forced repatriation of some 1700 Rwandan refugees last week, RNA reports.
Uganda’s minister for disaster preparedness and refugees, Tarsis Kabwegyere, said Tuesday afternoon that UNHCR has privately apologised for its inaccurate statements.
“This morning I had the UNCHR country representative (to Uganda) in my office and I can confidently say that (statement) was regretted,” Kabwegyere told a press conference.
UNHCR said last Friday that Ugandan authorities used false pretenses to round up the 1700 refugees in Nakivake and Kyaka settlements in the south-west.
The asylum-seekers had gathered for food distributions but were forcefully rounded up onto trucks without their possessions on July 14, UNHCR said. At another site, people gathered believing they would be informed of the results of their asylum claim, but police intervened, fired shots and forced people onto trucks, the agency said.
Minister Kabwegyere told the journalists that the Rwandans were forced out of Uganda because they had no refugee status and had become a security risk.
Security concerns have risen in Uganda since twin bombings on July 11 killed 76 people during the World Cup final.
Kabwegyere said that about 70 refugees ran from authorities during the roundup and that authorities are searching for them. Kabwegyere says Uganda still hosts 10,000 Rwandans who hold refugee status.
“The group had become a source of insecurity in the settlement since they were not under any authority nor were they being assisted by UNHCR,” he said. “We therefore had to act quickly to remove them from the settlement.”
Four minors separated from their parents have been reunited, Kabwegyere said.
“The difference between an asylum seeker, refugee and an immigrant should be very clear to those who claim to be champions of refugee rights,” Kabwegyere said.